It took five minutes for the first, “Come on Wild, Wake the Heck Up!!!” squawk from an angry patron in the upper bowl.
It’s amazing Mike Yeo didn’t yell back, “My sentiments exactly.”
The fan’s coaxing didn’t have the desired effect, nor did the coach’s first-intermission message: “That’s the story of the first period. Let’s try not to make it the story of the game.”
The Wild never woke up. In a flat, disappointing display by a depleted team that still entered with five victories in its previous six games, the Wild opened a three-game homestand by being thoroughly outplayed during a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“Execution wasn’t really there all night long,” Yeo said. “Weren’t really moving our feet, weren’t attacking, weren’t crisp with our passing. … We weren’t on our toes. We were getting beat to loose pucks to start the game.”
Rarely used Senators backup goalie Robin Lehner, making his first start since Dec. 27, won for the first time since Dec. 16 with a relatively easy 27-save shutout, the second of his career. The Wild was outshot 15-3 in the first period, with its first real shot not coming until the 17 ½-minute mark on Nino Niederreiter’s bad-angle backhander.
Prior to that, the Wild’s lone shot was Jason Zucker’s blast beyond the blue line designed solely to initiate a line change.
Justin Fontaine said part of the reason for the Wild’s lack of sustained pressure was the fast, pesky Senators collapsing hard.
“They backcheck hard, they play good positioning in lanes,” Fontaine said. “You want to make a play to the net, but they’re in the lane.”
The Wild had no business being in the game, but down 1-0, Darcy Kuemper kept the Wild in striking distance by stopping 22 of 23 shots through two periods.
The Wild took three penalties in the first 11:40, but the only goal was Clarke MacArthur’s power-play tally on Kyle Turris’ pass on a play many on the Wild felt was offside. Jason Pominville said the team seemed to get frustrated by that and other arguable missed calls.
“When you’re more engaged in the game, when you’re on top of your game, things like that don’t beat you,” Yeo said.
The Wild pressured early in the third period, but the momentum was doused when Marco Scandella snapped his stick on a shot. In an attempt to hound Erik Condra at the last second on the ensuing breakaway, Scandella grabbed his arm. Not only was it likely to result in a penalty shot, it changed Condra’s shot and he made it 2-0.
“I was trying to interfere with his shot, and maybe made him shoot five-hole,” Scandella said.
Because of four games in six nights with travel to and from Phoenix and to and from Nashville, the Wild hasn’t practiced since last Wednesday.
Players looked like it.
Yeo wasn’t using tired legs or lack of practice time as an excuse, but he said, “We’re grinding hard for every game, so we have to make sure we use [Wednesday] efficiently.”
A week ago, the Wild was bemoaning nine losses in its previous 10 road games. It suddenly has won three in a row on the road but has lost four of six at home.
“If you want to be a team that climbs in the standings and a team that’s tough to play against, you have to be better than what we were at home,” Pominville said.
What made the loss more aggravating for the eighth-place Wild is that ninth-place Phoenix lost, so the Wild could have built on a four-point cushion on a Coyotes team that has played three fewer games.
“Home’s where you’ve got to take advantage,” Fontaine said. “We’ve been playing good on the road. We’ve got to bring it back here. We all know it. We all know we’ve got better.”